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Debate Team Successful at Pellissippi
February 28, 2022

In its first in-person tournament in two years, the Walters State Debate team advanced to the final round at the fourth annual Tennessee Valley Invitational held at Pellissippi State Community College on Feb. 26.
The team of sophomores Emily Thompson, an agriculture major from Dandridge, and Zach Byrd, a theatre arts student from Rutledge, had a impressive 4-1 record before losing to the host school in the tournament’s final round. 
The team of Tanner Keck, a sophomore civil engineering student from Bean Station, and Lexi Rolen, a freshman teaching major from New Market, were 3-1 in preliminary competition before facing the eventual champions from Pellissippi State.
Two Walters State competitors were recognized with individual awards. Thompson received honors as the first-place novice speaker and Keck was honored as fourth-place novice speaker.
“I’ve been impressed with how hard our debaters have worked to overcome challenges during the pandemic,” said Rob Pratt, interim dean of the Division of Humanities and coach of Walters State’s debate team. “Three of our four students who won awards were competing in their very first debate tournament of any kind, and one had only debated virtually before this. They’ve long wanted this in-person opportunity, and they made the most of it.”
When the pandemic began two years ago, collegiate debate tournaments shifted to virtual competition for safety reasons. Now debate teams are working to bring back traditional in-person tournaments that give debaters a chance to meet and compete with the best college and university programs in the state and region.   
Walters State will next compete at the Tennessee Intercollegiate Forensic Association’s annual state tournament on March 26. Debate is open to all interested Walters State students. No prior debate experience is required. 
The Debate Team is open to all majors and no experience is required. Contact Pratt at

In the photo: The Walters State Debate Team was very successful in its first in-person tournament since the beginning of the pandemic. Pictured are, front from left: Zach Byrd, Emily Thompson, Tanner Keck and Lexi Rolen. Rob Pratt, interim dean of the Division of Humanities and debate coach, is in the second row.